Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RLPB 223. Kazakhstan: pastor victim of Soviet methods

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 223 | Wed 14 Aug 2013


By Elizabeth Kendal

The population of Kazakhstan is 63 percent Turkic (mostly ethnic Kazakhs) and 31 percent Slavic (mostly ethnic Russians). It is 54 percent Muslim, 34 percent non-religious and 12 percent Christian (who are overwhelmingly Orthodox). Protestant fellowships are viewed with suspicion, derided in the media and targeted in policy as 'new religious movements' (cults) and 'foreign'. Religious liberty has been in decline for several years, in line with the loss of US influence. The treatment being suffered by several dissidents (including a Protestant pastor) indicates Kazakhstan is returning to Soviet-era methods of social control. The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was appointed Prime Minister of the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan in April 1990. He has continued on as President since the break-up of the USSR.

Lyazzat Almenova (34) is a member of Grace Church in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. In July 2011 her mother alleged that her daughter had developed paranoid schizophrenia as a result of Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev's religious services, an assessment confirmed in September 2012 by a state 'expert'. In October 2012 authorities launched a criminal investigation into Pastor Kashkumbayev (66) 'for causing considerable harm to the psychological health' of a church member. On 17 May 2013 Pastor Kashkumbayev was arrested, accused of violating Criminal Code Article 103, Part 1: 'Intentional inflicting of serious harm to health'.  In court, the prosecutor alleged that 'the crime was carried out by Kashkumbayev under the guise of carrying out charitable and religious activity by means of exerting psychological influence on church members, including using  stupefying substances with the aim of collecting gifts for the use of the association'.

Lyazzat Almenova, who has been subjected to forced psychiatric treatment by the state, told Forum 18 that Pastor Kashkumbayev is 'totally innocent and has not harmed my health at all'. In a letter to the Astana Prosecutor's Office, Almenova claims she is psychiatrically healthy and the psychiatric assessment conducted on her in September 2012 was conducted illegally; she appealed for the case against Pastor Kashkumbayev to be dropped. Likewise, other church members are adamant that Pastor Kashkumbayev has not done anything wrong nor has he harmed anyone. The 'stupefying substances' alleged to have been administered have turned out to be nothing other than the readily available red tea used by Grace Church as a non-alcoholic communion wine. With the case against Kashkumbayev falling apart, the authorities appear to be making moves to save face.

Astana Police Investigator Vyacheslav Glazkov has ordered that Kashkumbayev's detention be extended until 17 August so he can undergo further psychiatric assessments. On 19 July Pastor Kashkumbayev was transferred to Almaty City Detention Centre No. 2, from where he would be transferred to the Almaty City Psychological-Psychiatric Assessment Centre. Pastor Kashkumbayev protested, writing in a letter that, even though he does suffer many physical ailments, he knows he is 'psychologically healthy'.

Kazakhstan's use of forced psychiatric treatment on dissidents has drawn international condemnation. Kashkumbayev now fears that the authorities may move to whitewash his case by having him committed as insane. 'In order to make me mad they will inject me with special substances,' he writes. 'Because of this I announce [a] hunger strike and refuse to leave for the psychiatric ward.' Kashkumbayev's lawyer warned his client that this could be really dangerous but Kashkumbayev was unmoved. He has expressed the fear that 'it will not take much for the authorities to make me a vegetable', pleading, 'I am begging you to protect me.' Since he was forcibly moved to the Almaty Psychiatric Centre, Kashkumbayev's family and lawyer have not heard anything.

Prosecutor Alen Tlenchiyev confirmed to Forum 18, 'Kashkumbayev is charged with the serious crime of inflicting serious harm on the health of citizens. [He] prayed for the sick, and psychologically influenced [Church members] . . . [and] 'people's health was harmed as a total result of his actions.' Pastor Kashkumbayev's son, Askar, believes the police investigator is trying to find evidence that does not exist. 'He may also hope that my father will be diagnosed as mentally ill so he can close the case now that there is so much international attention to it.' As Forum 18 notes, this would allow the Pastor to be confined in a psychiatric hospital. 'Our only hope,' said Askar, 'is the support we can get from wider public and international community. The local news media publish materials against my father. It looks like the authorities are intent on punishing my father.'

(RFE/RL Photo)


* the ever-present Lord of Hosts will shield, protect and deliver Pastor Kashkumbayev.

'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me. Arise, O Lord! Confront him [the enemy], subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O Lord, from men of the world whose portion is in this life.' (Psalm 17:7-8,13-14 ESV)

* the Lord, who does not approve of abuse and injustice (Lamentations 3:34-36), will intervene in Kazakhstan to reverse its slide into darkness. May Kazakhstan's citizens be awakened to reject and protest this shameful and dangerous regression.

* God will give Kazakhstan's Protestant and independent Christian fellowships great wisdom, courage and grace in these delicate and difficult days. May the Holy Spirit bless their gospel witness with effectual transforming power.


Lyazzat Almenova (34) is a member of Grace Church in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. In 2011 her mother made allegations against the church, claiming the pastor had caused her daughter to become 'schizophrenic'. After a state 'expert' confirmed the diagnosis, the police started investigating Pastor Kashkumbayev (66). He was arrested, accused of 'praying for the sick' and thereby 'psychologically influencing' church members so that their health is harmed. He is also accused of using 'stupefying substances' (which turned out to be the non-alcoholic red tea used in communion) to 'collect gifts' (church offerings) from members. With the prosecution's case collapsing, Pastor Kashkumbayev has been sent to the Almaty City Psychological-Psychiatric Assessment Centre. There are great fears for his well being there. Please pray for him, Kazakhstan and its Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)